Monday, November 26, 2007

The unemployment problem

Cuba’s Juventud Rebelde seems to be setting out to prove that just because a newspaper is state-controlled, it doesn’t have to be predictable or dull.

In the past year it has exposed the dysfunction in many Cuban state enterprises and serious problems in delivery of dental care. Yesterday’s paper contained an opinion piece that criticized the “overwhelming unanimity” in Cuba’s National Assembly, citing the fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes” to chide the legislature for the scarcity of debates where opposing views are voiced.

It also contained a long article on Cuba’s unemployment figures that showed what a stroll through just about any Cuban neighborhood reveals: that many more youths are unemployed than official figures admit, or as the article put it, “the figures are never a reflection of reality.” The article (in English, here) explained how undercounting occurs; it revealed that in the province of Granma, social workers counted about 18 times more unemployed than official figures show; and it pointed out that programs to bring youths and others into the workforce are not always successful because in many cases the economy is not generating enough new jobs, or the right kind of jobs, to give opportunities to graduates. In light of this article, it will be interesting to see how government ministers treat the employment issue when they give their annual accounting to the National Assembly next month.

It will be even more interesting to see if Cuban economic policy confronts this problem.

If Cuba undertakes economic reform, it could take two main directions. One would be to strengthen the state sector by changing policies governing state enterprises or by increasing foreign investment, possibly by changing the terms offered to joint venture partners or opening new sectors of the economy to foreign participation.

The Economist, for example, reports that Cuba is reaching out to foreign investors, looking for partners in tourism development projects, and may be close to a deal with Dubai Ports World to build a container port at Mariel. In addition to serving Cuba’s needs now, the Economist sees this project as a post-embargo play because it would enable he Mariel port to become a hub for U.S. shipping, given its proximity to Florida and Gulf ports.

Or Cuba’s govern-
ment could opt for an opening that would affect Cubans more directly, by easing the restrictions on their own economic initiative. The agriculture sector is a prime candidate, frequently mentioned in the discussion of the recent economic debate.

Another job-generating possibility involves Cuba’s small entrepreneurs, the subject of this article (in Spanish) from Palabra Nueva, the magazine of Havana’s archdiocese. The author argues that if policies are liberalized, many black-market entrepreneurs would get licenses and join the legal sector, which would bring “benefits for the self-employed and for the authorities. For the former because they would free themselves from the permanent legal anxiety that stays with anyone on the margins of the law, while the latter [the state] could better regulate food safety, the safety of vehicles that carry passengers, the quality of inputs and raw materials, and there would be more tax revenues for the government budget.”

[Photo from Palabra Nueva]


leftside said...

The silence from the Miami crowd (at least on the net) is deafening. Has there been any discussion of this on Miami radio?? It appears inconvenient news is being dealt with like always - ignored. If either this article or editorial were in the Herald, they would be the talk of the town. The fact that it is appearing in the Cuban press, is more than a little important. But if no one knows, all the better for imposing the hardline ideas.

Juan Cuellar said...

What are you talking about Lefty? The only one that ignored this JR piece was you. At least Phil grabbed it but with his own twist. The fact is that the regimen is very..very worry about the youth, especially with what is happening in Bolivia and Venezuela. Read el blog de Yoani "generacion 'Y'" Things don't look good for the "left" on this blog, much less for the goons in power in Cuba.

Anonymous said...

It is true that formally there is a job for everyone in Cuba, albeit most of them are good for nothing. Many of my childhood friends are getting bored in the corners.
"Están sentados en el contén del barrio como hace un siglo atrás, a veces los pasan en la radio, a veces nada más"
And this Juventud Rebelde article is one instance. It is also true that the press in Cuba is covering more frequently the difficult problems there with a very welcome realism.
My good childhood friends in Cuba are still "sentados en el contén del barrio", doing nothing, just getting older. That's certainly bad. But worse is that many of them believe that hard core capitalism is a solution, and they look to the North. I went beyond, I move to the North and if I could tell them 3 things…
1- When you move to the North you will have better food and possibly a car, the one you have always dream about. Here you will be judged more for what you have than for what you are. In this sense, the situation is far worse than the one you could have felt in Havana. Still, you will have plenty of food…and a car. You will also be able to say what you think, with the possible exception of saying something intelligent and different in Miami about the Revolution and Fidel. Remember, no grays, Fidel is just BAD, BAD, BAD.
2- Don’t try to import any recipe like those to Cuba. They are always a disaster. You will hear constantly that after 50 years all what we have is misery and repression. That’s true but others have been trying those recipes for 200 years and are in the same. Even worse: there is an important odd that you could not be able to survive healthy as you are just “sentado en el contén del barrio”. You may got shot, or die of an infection, or starvation like those in the Argentinean Chaco.
3- Don’t assume that because I have managed to do it you will be able to do the same. Remember, you are black, and while we had the same opportunities to get education, good and free, I had a more encouraging family background than you. Moving away from marginality takes more than 50 years.

Note: I love public transportation, vegetarian food and recycled clothes. I do not own a car and I will try to avoid as long as the system allows me to be free enough. Freedom!!!

Tomás Estrada-Palma said...

History proves beyond a shadow of a doubt - escalating salaries and increased benefits result from an economy that has more jobs than people. So employers must compete for workers. An economy restricted by tax and regulation reduces the jobs to a number less than the number of workers available to fill them. So the opposite of a worker's economy happens - the workers compete against each other with lower salary and benefit demands for the limited number of jobs. Government cannot change this equation on jobs numbers vs employees other than to tax and restrict jobs from being created in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Tomas, why do you spew such tired rhetoric. Whether from the right or left, reality is not as tidy as theoretical assumptions as you spew in your comment and your child like blog.

Your "talks" to Cubans (in english) on your blog are pateralistic. I showed them to my anti-castro sister in law now living in the US - she laughed and then became annoyed by your style (again mainly b/c you are paternalistic and over exaggerate how the majority lives in Cuba). Sure some don't have toliet paper, but the vast majority of Cubans do indeed use toliet paper.

If you would have ever been to Cuba over the past 20 years, you would know this. You would also know how stupid your blog sounds.

Freedom to the Cubans! Freedom from Castor and freedom from the exile gangster (facists). !

Anonymous said...

Juan, you say

"Read el blog de Yoani "generacion 'Y'" Things don't look good for the "left" on this blog, much less for the goons in power in Cuba."

I hope you are right, but 50 years belie your optimism. You guys have been saying this for decades.... I hope you are right this time, but I doubt it - especially if US policy keeps playing right into the hands of the communists.

Juan Cuellar said...

Jose, I am only 52 years old. I must be a genious to be saying that for 50 years. Stop blaming the USA like others blame Batista for what is solely the responsability of Cuba's regimen. Stops the disgressions and the spinnings. Al pan, pan y al vino, vino. Go and read Arucas correspondent in Cuba Manuel Alberto Ramy (agente de la seguridad del estado.

Anonymous said...

Correction Juan Cuellar is 54 years old born on 9/30/1953. Now, this should make all of you guys think what else is he lying about?

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